/ GAA

Westmeath's McCarthy creates softball history

Updated: Sunday, 04 Sep 2011 13:09

Robbie McCarthy of Mullingar claimed the senior softball title
Robbie McCarthy of Mullingar claimed the senior softball title

Robbie McCarthy created history on Saturday evening when he became the first Westmeath handballer to secure the All-Ireland Senior Softball Championship.

A breathtaking display in front of a capacity crowd provided an emotional and richly deserved triumph for the Mullingar clubman.

Dublin's Eoin Kennedy entered the 2011 decider as an eight-times champion, chasing eight in-a-row.

He looked to be at the top of his game again as the action progressed. The opening game manifested into one of the best seen in years, as the players traded aces relentlessly for a full 58 minutes.

Kennedy's trademark inch-perfect serving, dynamic movement and perfectly placed shooting around court, along with McCarthy's finishing and outstanding retrieving ensured an epic encounter.

The duo were deadlocked on many occasions, and indeed were still level at 2-2 with 13 minutes played such was the finely balanced nature of the match.

They were also level four more times before McCarthy broke to go 17-15 in front. He then delivered three incredible kill-shots during a series of lung-bursting rallies in which the retrieving from both players was of the highest quality.

The Westmeath man then held a 20-17 lead and had three serves for that final ace of the game, during which Kennedy closed the gap to 20-19.

Eventually, a fine overhand lob serve to the left and fly kill to the right corner brought the first game McCarthy's way.

From there it seemed as though the Dublin star's grasp on the senior trophy had loosened considerably.

That transpired in the second game as McCarthy soon drove clear in what was unquestionably the best exhibition of play in the 23-year-old's playing career to date.

He quickly moved into a commanding 16-6 lead, leaving an air of inevitability about the result.

However, Eoin Kennedy, in the typical style of one of the all-time great champions, continued to battle for his crown and he cut the deficit to 13-16.

Both players had a few shaky moments, and a couple of unusual unforced errors from the brilliant Dublin man saw McCarthy break again.

Indeed he found five consecutive points to secure his first ever All-Ireland Senior Softball Championship crown on a 21-13 scoreline.

It has been a remarkable season for the Westmeath player as he has claimed major senior titles in three codes: the Irish 40x20 Nationals Open title, All-Ireland Senior Singles Hardball Championship and now the All-Ireland Senior Singles 60x30 Softball Championship.

"I lost out in the past two years in the final of this and all my efforts were geared towards winning this title in 2011. I have trained for 12 months and have received outstanding support from the County GAA Board and that has paid off with my fitness.

"I knew I was in good form and in good shape for this and it was needed as Eoin is a great player and it took everything from me to win this tonight.

"I'll just enjoy this for now as to be honest I just can't believe it has all paid off."

Meanwhile, Galway's Martin Mulkerrins secured his second M Donnelly GAA Handball All-Ireland 60x30 Minor Championship crown, when he followed up his 2010 final win with a straight games victory over Kildare's Niall O'Connor.

This year's decider provided another terrific battle with O'Connor producing a series of fantastic long range kill-shots but ultimately failing to counteract the terrific consistency exhibited by Mulkerrins.

The Moycullen clubman was always holding the edge on this occasion and he delivered some sensational low pass-shots at crucial stage the affectively sent him over the line.

Mulkerrins won 21-14, 21-11 to bring the curtain down on a brilliant series of successes in the minor grade.

At intermediate level there was a dramatic turnaround before the destination of the All-Ireland Intermediate Doubles Championship was decided.

Meath's Gary McConnell was in sensational form in the opening game of the 2011 final as he produced one fantastic long-range kill after another to help steer the Meath men to a 21-4 first game victory.

It looked ominous for Roscommon's Aengus Cunningham and Chris Doolin at that stage but they showed tremendous mettle to carve out a 21-19 win in the second, and they went on to claim the honours with a 21-11 win in the third.

Meanwhile, there was further joy for the west when Pronsius Maughan won the 60x30 Finals Shootout to claim the much sought after prize of two tickets for the All-Ireland Senior Football Final.

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